Four Elements of Responsible, Safe Driving

I would suggest that otherwise responsible people don’t suddenly and mysteriously turn into raving, sadistic maniacs once they place themselves behind a steering wheel. So why are there so many irresponsible drivers out there on our roads with us?

Perhaps it’s because so many otherwise responsible people — simply never take the time to consider what it really takes to be a responsible driver. They never really think about it. After my last driver refresher course, I decided to sit down and codify what for me, are the four essential elements of responsible, safe driving. Each of these four basic concepts can beg many additional issues but these are my basics. See if you might not agree.

1. Know and maintain the machine.

A motor vehicle is a machine. It’s a tool. It happens to be a very dangerous one. Like any other dangerous tool, a hammer, a chain-saw, an axe or even a firearm, it behooves the user to understand it, to learn how to use it correctly, learn its unique traits and to maintain it in top operating condition. If we don’t understand and adhere to this most basic concept of the driving experience, can we really consider ourselves responsible drivers?

2. Drive within Limitations.

Driving is both a physical and mental exercise. We’re all different people with different skill sets, different strengths, weaknesses and different abilities. As driver’s this doesn’t change. We must always be aware of — and drive (or not drive) within our personal limitations and the limitations of our specific machines, be they temporary limitations or permanent.

We must also be alert to the limitations of other drivers on the road. It’s not hard to do. All you’ve got to do is eye-ball them for a half mile or so! It’s also quite politically correct these days to judge others by our own limitations. Let’s not do it on the roads. Let’s leave that to our legislators – they’re pretty good at it. If we’re not consciously driving within our limitations and the limitations of our machines, and if we’re not constantly identifying fellow drivers who are not, are we really being responsible, safe drivers?

3. Driving Skills.

This may be the most overlooked concept of responsible driving. We tool around the block, do a parallel-park, maybe a three point U-turn and as long as we don’t blow a stop sign, we get a license that says we have the skills to drive. Yeah, right!

In one of my refresher courses the instructor went around the room asking the unwilling participants what about other drivers annoyed them most. Not really sure what that had to do with safe driving but I thought one of the responses to be kind of interesting. “What annoys me most are kids doing doughnuts in a snowy parking lot.” Hmm, I thought for a moment. Doesn’t really annoy me. Done it plenty of times — and I’m no kid. That “kid” is practicing his driving skills. He’s learning how to handle his car in what basically is a controlled skid. Much rather be behind him on a snowy or slippery road than someone who’s going to learn it for the first time!

Driving skills have to be studied, developed and practiced. Perhaps thirty percent of our fellow highway drivers have ever even heard of the terms “over-steer,” “under-steer” or “throttle-steering,” much less — understand how they affect a vehicle at speed. In order to be truly skilled highway drivers, we need to at least understand basic vehicle handling concepts. And we have to be skilled drivers — to be safe, responsible drivers.

4. Driving Experience.

Ah!! The really tough one. But I’ve got really good news for our younger drivers. You don’t have to wait ’till you’re as old as I am to gain a ton of driving experience. (Lucky you!) All you’ve really got to do is think about it – and make a conscious effort to acquire your experience more quickly.

Four basic elements of responsible driving to “Driver Think” about. What do you think about them? Email me!